2016 was the year I spent in Hickory playing for the Crawdads. I told y’all a while back about how me and two other infielders shared an apartment that I renumbered 643. My two roommates were our Dominican 2nd baseman, Jesus, and our 1st baseman, Slater Hughes. Slater got scouted right out of high school and came to Hickory pretty retarded socially. I just wrote about baseball dads I’ve known. Slater’s mother was worse than any baseball dad I ever saw. She totally controlled him, right down to forcing him to be on an even stricter nutritional program than Lucas is on now. Only it isn’t Mrs. Andrews who’s making Lucas drink all those beet powder and nonfat yogurt shakes. They’re his idea. Slater’s mother wouldn’t allow him any dairy or gluten or carbs after 6 PM and she made him take like a dozen vitamins every morning.
And, like I said, he was socially retarded. I think Mrs. Hughes made sure that he didn’t have any friends in high school. I still don’t get how you can be the star of the baseball team and not be popular…but that’s how it was with Slater. His mom made sure he never got in trouble or anything, and a teenager needs to get in trouble every once in a while. Me, Gardner and Turner were good kids almost all the time, but there was the time Mrs. Warwick caught us coming home drunk, and the time I got caught stealing a can of Copenhagen…or the time that the cops picked me up for public fighting. And we hand girlfriends and what goes with them, too. You shouldn’t use it as an excuse for being a total asshole in your teens, but some rebellion against your parents – even if they’re the best parents in the world – is necessary. And healthy.
But Slater got to do none of that. None of it. That made him a super easy target for rookie pranks during spring training.. I got some shit for being a rookie of course, but most of the pranks we pulled were on Slater. Right down to putting his hands in warm water while he was asleep. (Like I told y’all, yeah, it works lol.) He took it pretty hard, but he needed the toughening up. Some of it really sucked for him…but it did him good.
The team had a meeting and we all decided that we needed to get Slater laid, too. (Also for his own good.) And Heartthrob here was put in charge of making that happened. Slater made it real hard on me at first, so much so that I finally forced him to eat a bowl of neapolitan ice cream, fuck his diet and all his mother’s advice.
He never even saw ice cream before in his life, and he went fuckin nuts over it. The next day, instead of running away from the girl I’d picked out for him, he went for it…and could only hit home runs at BP the following morning.
Me and Slater were having ice cream before bedtime after our game the night of his first morning after, and Slater told me he was worried because his mom wasn’t gonna like what he was doing.
“What do you mean?,” I asked.
“About…about the ice cream for starters. She told me I was lactose intolerant. And she’d never let me have carbs this late in the day.”
“Fuck carbs,” I said. “Ice cream is a high-quality protein source.”
“I’m not too sure of that,” he said.
“If you get up to look at the package I’m gonna have to kick your ass,” I said with a laugh.
Slater wasn’t entirely sure what to say to that.
Then it came to him:
“Um…try it…um…pretty boy.”
It took him a while to get it all out, but the important part is that he was actually talkin shit. It was a huge breakthrough. I was never so glad (or so proud) to be called pretty boy in my life.
Turns out the ice cream did do him a lot of good physically. He needed to put on some weight, and his protein shakes must have gotten a lot better once he started putting a scoop of ice cream in them. He didn’t exactly pack on 20 pounds of muscle during the season (nobody does that), but he did put on 10 pounds and look less skinny for his 6’3” frame.
Spring said she liked him that way, which was way more important to Slater than anything the coaching staff had to say about his body. Yeah, Spring became his first girlfriend, although they didn’t get too serious…largely because I inadvertently taught Slater that you can be sleeping with more than one chick at a time.
The only problem was Mrs. Hughes, who was sure to find out sooner or later what Slater was up to. Or, as she put it when she did find out, what I was putting him up to. Let’s say for starters that Mrs. Hughes didn’t like me.
She didn’t need to have found out as soon as she did, but Slater himself let the cat out of the bag. Not about the ice cream at first…but about Spring. You gotta understand: his mother dominated him all his life, she made all his decisions for him…and he never kept anything from her.
He talked to her at least twice a day every day, once at breakfast time and once in the evening or after the game, if we had one that day. He was still calling her ‘mommy’ when he didn’t think anyone could hear. (The walls of our tiny bedrooms were paper thin…I had the middle room and could hear everything Jesus and Slater were doing. Lucky thing I’m not a light sleeper.) For the first few days after the ice cream and vitamin F treatments started, he was able to keep them to himself, but, finally, he couldn’t keep it in any longer. We were out with the girls (Spring was a friend of a chick I had a little thing with named Summer) one night after a game, and Slater had forgotten to call his mother from the locker room. She kept calling while we were hanging with the girls, and I could tell his was super torn about answering it. Spring finally told him to answer the dang thing, so he did.
“Hello…yes, mom…yes, mom.. The game? It went well. We won 3 to 2. I got a hit… no, only one hit. A single. But Hunter, Jesus and I turned a couple double plays. Those were pretty neat…yes, I know. I only got that single…but their pitching was good…really good. We only scored 3 runs…no, mommy, I didn’t score. Hunter did. He had a single and stole 2nd and then Parks brought him home with an RBI double…. You know Hunter…my roommate, the good-looking one…. Yes, mom… I’ll try harder at BP tomorrow. Yes, we play them again tomorrow night…. No, I’m not in bed yet…”
That’s when I suspected the trouble was going to start.
“No…I’m…I’m… out with Hunter. No, mommy…he’s not gay. They call him ‘Heartthrob’ here…there are lots of girls who think he’s very attractive. What girls? The girls who…who….who like ball players…
As Scooby-Doo would put it, ‘ruh-roh’.
“Yes, I’ve met some of them, mom. “
Then we heard a raised voice on the other side of the phone, even from where we were all sitting.
“Yes, mom…I’m with one of them. Well, with two of them… No, one of them is here with Hunter… Yes, mom…”
The poor kid was blushing. I think even his hair was blushing.
“Yes, mom, I am…on a…date.”
Spring, who really was awesome, gave Slater a huge smile…and put her hand on his leg. I thought he would burst.
“No, she’s not keeping me up too late. Hunter’s here with me…we have plenty of time until curfew. Yes, mom, yes, even before a game day. Yes, mom… No, mom, she’s very nice. Yes…she’s pretty.” Spring smiled a big ole smile. “She’s very pretty…and I like her.”
He was about to get into serious trouble. So I made the ‘cut’ sign at him.
“Listen, mom…I have to go. We can talk about this tomorrow. Yes…mom…I promise. Good night, mommy. Sleep tight. Yes, mommy…I love you. Good night.”
It went on a little longer than that, and, yeah, it was pretty fuckin embarrassing.
Spring was amazing, though. We’d all exchanged looks during the phone call saying what a hot mess we thought Slater was, but, as soon as he put the phone down, she got her other hand on his leg. We were in a Waffle House, so there wasn’t too much more she could do, but I kept thinking about the line in the Bible about a man should leave his parents and go to live with his wife. Slater wasn’t ready for marriage (neither was I lol) but he finally was reaching the stage where you start pulling away from your parents because of chicks.
I reckon I don’t need to tell y’all the rest of what happened with me, Slater, Summer and Spring that night. But I will have to tell you about what happened the next morning.